Why are we worrying over Ebola?

Justin Marinelli, Staff Writer

If bleeding from the eyeballs is your idea of a good time, you might be the only person in the world delighted to hear that Ebola is in the United States. If you’re a normal human being, however, odds are you realize that this is not a pleasing development. If you’re a sensible human being (as opposed to a “normal” one), you might even believe we should do all we can to stop the spread of Ebola.

It’s understandable that people are afraid. Fear is a rational response in the face of a highly lethal disease with no known cure. That said, the odds of a serious outbreak in this country are unbelievably small. So why are people afraid? Can this really be ascribed to sheer irrationality?

The media is drastically overplaying this whole ordeal. The profitability of the media is contingent on people paying attention to the news and media institutions. In order to stay solvent, they cannot just report any old news story–they have to create it. Hence the recent fear-mongering over … everything really, from Ebola to ISIS.

Well, at least we can look to our government for reassurance in these times, right? Remember, this is the same government that rejects the idea that keeping people who might be carrying the Ebola virus out of the United States would help mitigate a looming crisis. Given that this is a slap in the face to germ theory and the basic principles of public health, it seems forgivable to wonder if government officials believe in witchcraft.

Instead of a travel ban (a “quarantine”—a necessary first step in stopping the spread of any disease), we have an “Ebola czar” in the form of a Washington political insider with no experience in the field of public health. I guess that’s something, right? This would be a fantastic place to point out that czars in the modern age tend to be killed by the things they are appointed to rule over (RIP Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov), but even I’m not that morbid.

The real reason people are afraid of Ebola is not just the fear of dying from a horrifying disease for which we have no cure, but the realization that our government was completely ineffectual in stopping the disease from coming to our shores and so far has given no indication that it has any ability to stop the disease if an outbreak does occur. If the U.S. government, ostensibly one of the most powerful human institutions on the planet, can do nothing, then what can any of us do?

We are afraid not because of Ebola itself, but because of the creeping suspicion in the back of our minds that we are utterly powerless and that no matter what we do, no matter how hard we struggle, and no matter what action we take, there is nothing we can do to protect ourselves.

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